DARIEN, IL – As medical residents consider their future career paths, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) encourages them to apply for a sleep medicine fellowship to enter an intriguing field with long-term growth potential and the opportunity to positively impact the health of a huge population of patients.

Experts project an increasing demand for sleep physicians as about 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep problem, and nearly 60 percent of them have a chronic sleep disease that can harmfully affect their overall health. Disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea can lead to increased risk of heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and cancer if left untreated.

“Sleep medicine is a rewarding specialty that enables you to make a significant difference in the lives of your patients,” said AASM President-elect Dr. Ilene Rosen. “By diagnosing and treating sleep disorders, we are directly improving patients’ health and quality of life, and the restoration of healthy sleep often allows patients to feel like a new person again.”

Due to increased public awareness of the seriousness of sleep-related diseases, millions of new patients will be seeking evaluations and treatment for potential sleep disorders in coming years. Across the country there are 83 sleep medicine fellowship training programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and now is the time for residents to start considering sleep as a career so that they can help combat numerous public health epidemics.

According to the AASM, future sleep specialists can anticipate career opportunities with many upsides, including:

High Demand
New sleep medicine physicians can thrive in a field with a workforce that is far below capacity. Data show that the prevalence of one of the most destructive sleep disorders, obstructive sleep apnea, has risen substantially over the last two decades. It’s estimated that about 23.5 million adults who have sleep apnea remain undiagnosed in the U.S.

Balanced Lifestyle
Sleep physicians have the opportunity to practice in diverse settings, including teaching hospitals, community hospitals and independent sleep disorders centers, cultivating a work schedule that best fits their lifestyle. Also, sleep specialists typically do not have to come into the hospital on nights and weekends, as most overnight sleep studies are either monitored by trained technologists at an accredited sleep center or self-conducted by patients in their own home.

Collaborative Environment
Sleep specialists often lead sleep teams of other health care providers – including nurses, physician assistants, psychologists, dentists and sleep technologists. Also, due to the high level of common, serious illnesses that co-exist with sleep diseases, sleep specialists have ample opportunities to collaborate directly with primary care physicians and other specialists to treat patients in a coordinated effort.

“Intraprofessional and interprofessional team-based care are vital to taking care of patients with sleep disorders,” said Rosen.

Innovative Tools
The clinical practice of sleep medicine involves the use of an intriguing blend of established technologies, such as polysomnography and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, and emerging tools, such as implanted upper airway stimulation systems.

“Sleep medicine is infused with technology at all turns – wearable devices that track sleep, evolving devices for formal sleep and sleep-related respiratory testing, and interfaces that allow for tracking of adherence and efficacy,” said Rosen. “In order to be an effective sleep medicine specialist, physicians in training should be tech-savvy.”

Greater Access
There is great potential for telemedicine to improve patient access to high-quality care provided by board-certified sleep medicine physicians, allowing sleep specialists to connect with patients in underserved areas. The increasing need for sleep specialists, combined with the looming physician shortage predicted by the Association of American Medical Colleges, makes it essential to provide more efficient and accessible care. Telemedicine is part of the solution. By using telemedicine systems such as AASM SleepTM, sleep specialists are removing the barrier between physicians and patients to allow direct delivery and seamless care.

Sleep medicine is a recognized medical subspecialty with fellowship training programs that are approved by the ACGME and a board certification examination that is administered by six member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Applicants must have completed a residency in internal medicine, neurology, psychiatry, otolaryngology, pediatrics, family medicine or anesthesiology.

For more information about a career as a sleep specialist, download the free ebook, “Unlock the Secrets of Sleep: A Physician’s Introduction to the Field of Sleep Medicine,” which is available at www.choosesleep.org. Learn more about the match process for sleep medicine fellowships at https://www.nrmp.org/fellowships/sleep-medicine-match/.

CONTACT: Matt Kasik, L.C. Williams & Associates, 800-837-7123 or 312-565-3900, mkasik@lcwa.com.

About American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) improves sleep health and promotes high quality, patient-centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards. The AASM has a combined membership of 10,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals.